We’ve all worked with one. We’ve all needed one. I’m sure at one point or another, we’ve all been one. Heroes are often required from time-to-time in a business, whether the circumstances are driven by a tight deadline or an innovation that someone developed on their own time. These moments can be career enhancers as the circumstances can allow for extraordinary effort to be put forth, which in turn can allow for extraordinary results to be realized. These individuals can be critical to a business, and I’m certainly not discounting the role of a hero in a company, or an agile team for that matter…but what I am challenging is the precedent that can be inadvertently set when a culture of heroes is allowed to be established in a company, organization, or team.
The very essence of an agile team reminds me of the old Three Musketeers adage; “All for one, and one for all!” The importance of empowering the team to define what they’ll collectively achieve for each sprint, and then supporting them as they work to towards this goal is critical to business leadership, the team, and the individual. To establish a culture of heroes contradicts this core tenet, as a culture of heroes incentivizes individual contributions and detracts from the team coming together to achieve these same “heroic” results together. There’s no denying that any given team will likely have an individual who by talent or contribution consistently exceeds the status-quo. The point I’m trying to make is that it’s up to business leadership to reinforce and reward a culture that can both acknowledge a heroic act, and then determine how to translate that single contribution to the entire team. It’s in this approach that a hero is praised both for the contribution, and for the ability to convert that “breakthrough” (whatever it may be) to something that can propel the team forward, enhance the team’s velocity, and help the team achieve greater things.
Heroes will arise, and great things will be achieved in these moments, but to me the greatest achievement is when these individual contributions can be scaled across a team, an organization and a business. This act is easier said than done, and I am not offering a silver bullet approach to how to achieve this feat, nor am I trying to oversimplify the subject that is “corporate culture”…instead I’m making a call to all agile practitioners to try and find how they might contribute towards achieving this goal, regardless of their role in an organization. Let’s find a way to take our individual heroes and turn them into heroic teams!
Disclaimer: The views expressed by the author in this blog post are the author’s alone and do not represent the view of the author’s employer.